Last modified on 20 May 2015, at 01:42

Dutch/Lesson 4

Les 4 ~ Lesson 4

Studeren ~ Student Life

Indefinite and negative articles
Grammar: More pronouns
Grammar: Plural of nouns
Orthography: The Dutch spelling rule

Voorwoord Les 1 Les 2 Les 3 Les 4 Les 5 Les 6 Les 7 Les 8 Les 9 Les 10 Les 11 Les 12 Les 13 Les 14 Les 15 Les 16 Les 17 Les 18 Les 19 Les 20 Les 21 Les 22
Practice Les 1A Les 2A Les 3A Les 4A Les 5A Les 6A Les 7A Les 8A Les 9A Les 10A Les 11A Les 12A Les 13A Les 14A Les 15A Les 16A Les 17A Les 18A Les 19A Les 20A Les 21A Les 22A
Examples Vb. 1 Vb. 2 Vb. 3 Vb. 4 Vb. 5 Vb. 6 Vb. 7 Vb. 8 Vb. 9 Vb. 10 Vb. 11 Vb. 12 Vb. 13 Vb. 14 Vb. 15 Vb. 16 Vb. 17 Vb. 18 Vb. 19 Vb. 20 Vb. 21 Vb. 22

Gesprek 4-1Edit

Peter is een student medicijnen. Hij gaat naar de universiteit. Hij wil Elly uitnodigen voor een etentje, maar hij heeft geen geld.
Hij kan er niks aan doen; studeren is duur.
Pa, ik heb geld nodig!
Ja, sorry hoor, maar ik heb echt stoelen en een tafel nodig!
Ja, ja, tafels en stoelen zeker. Feesten zul je bedoelen.
He Pa, toe nou... Die heb ik echt nodig, hoor.
Nou, vooruit dan maar weer...
Translation • Lesson 4 • gesprek
Peter is een student medicijnen. Hij gaat naar de universiteit. Hij wil Elly uitnodigen voor een etentje, maar hij heeft geen geld. Hij kan er niks aan doen; studeren is duur.
Peter is a medical student. He goes to college. He wants to invite Elly for a dinner date, but does not have the money. He cannot help it; studying is expensive.
Pa, ik heb geld nodig!
Dad, I need money!
Ja, sorry hoor, maar ik heb echt stoelen en een tafel nodig!
Yes, well sorry, but I really need chairs and a table!
Ja,ja, tafels en stoelen zeker!! Feesten zul je bedoelen.
Tables and chairs, yeah right. Partying, more likely.
He Pa, toe nou... Die heb ik echt nodig, hoor.
Ow, Dad, come on... I really need those, man.
Nou, vooruit dan maar weer...
All right, there we go again...
YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 4 • waar of niet waar

Is dit waar of niet waar:

  1. Peter studeert theologie
  2. Peter heeft geld nodig voor stoelen en tafels
  3. Zijn Pa geeft hem geld
  4. Pa nodigt Elly uit voor een etentje
  5. Peter studeert aan een universiteit
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 4 • waar of niet waar
  1. Peter studeert theologie - niet waar: medicijnen
  2. Peter heeft geld nodig voor stoelen en tafels - niet waar : hij wil Elly uitnodigen voor een etentje
  3. Zijn Pa geeft hem geld - waar
  4. Pa nodigt Elly uit voor een etentje - niet waar
  5. Peter studeert aan een universiteit - waar

Fill in the blank 4-1-FEdit

  • Peter zegt dat hij die stoelen en tafels echt ____ heeft.
  • Peter wil Elly ______ voor een etentje.
  • Zijn vader zegt: ______ zul je bedoelen!
  • Zijn zoon _________ aan de universiteit.

Grammatica 4-1 ~ The indefinite articles een en geenEdit

...chairs and a table ... stoelen en een tafel
...has no money... heeft geen geld

In the previous lesson you were introduced to the definite articles—'the' in English and het or de in Dutch. Indefinite articles precede nouns in the same way that definite articles do, but convey a general or indefinite sense. These are 'a' or 'an' in English. Thus, 'the book' or het boek refers to a definite or specific book, whereas 'a book' or een boek is indefinite about which book is referred to. Dutch indefinite articles only come in one form (een), so they don't display gender.

de tafel

The use of definite and indefinite articles is virtually the same as in English. The few deviations are best learned when listening to the language or speaking it.

de stoel
een de masculine/feminine de tafel - een tafel (the table - a table)
een het neuter het raam - een raam (the window - a window)

Please note (see also previous lesson) that the indefinite article has the same form as the numeral one (één). One could argue that one is a clitic form of the other. To denote the difference, one could place accents on the numeral. Also, there is a difference in pronunciation. The numeral één (one) is pronounced /e:n/, the article een (a) with a much weaker /ən/. Occasionally Dutch has one and English the other:

op een middag - one afternoon

Notice that one is used here in the meaning of a certain, not say in contrast to two or three.

There is an inflected form ene that is used independently:

Occasionally Dutch has one, English the other.
Soms heeft Nederlands het ene, Engels het andere


de fuut
de eend

In English a negative of an indefinite article is simply formed by adding not:

this is a car
this is not a car

Alternatively one can drop the article and say:

this is no car.

In Dutch there is a special negative of een:

dit is een auto
dit is geen auto.

Geen is used both with singular and with plural indefinite nouns

dat zijn eenden -- those are ducks
dat zijn geen eenden -- those are not ducks

The combination niet + een is only used in contrasting things:

dit is niet een fuut maar een eend.
this is not a grebe but a duck.

With definite nouns negation involves adding niet, usually at end:

dat is de auto
dat is de auto niet

Notice that Dutch does not use the auxiliary verb to do for negations:

Hij zag de auto niet - he did not see the car
Hij zag geen eenden - he did not see any ducks

Double negationEdit

When a negative is negated Dutch uses the adverb wel to express that. English has to use a construction involving the verb to do:

Heb je geen geld? -- Jawel, ik heb wel geld.
Don't you have money -- Yes, I do have money

This adverb is also used for contrasting:

Hij heeft geen auto, maar wel een motor.
He has no car, but he does have a motorbike.

Notice that the second part of the Dutch sentence does not even have a verb. Dutch is quite an 'adverbial' language. If the adverb expresses the meaning sufficiently, why bother with superfluous things like verbs?

A game of "Yes, you do" - "No, I don't" sounds like "Welles!" - "Nietes!" in Dutch

Grammatica 4-2 ~ More pronounsEdit


Recall the following from Gesprek 3-1:

Ja. En daarna breng je me op je motor naar huis.

Which translates as:

'Yes. And after that you take me home on your motorcycle'.

The sentence demonstrates one of the possessive pronouns. In the singular these are

'my', 'your', and 'his/her/its' in English
mijn, jouw and zijn/haar/(zijn) in Dutch.

The neuter zijn for its is not used very much in Dutch, as we shall see in lesson 8 it often gets replaced by "ervan".

The above pronouns like jouw often turn into a weak (clitic) form je that is used when the emphasis is on something else, such as the motorcycle in this case. In the spoken language this holds for all of them, but in the written language je is the most generally accepted clitic. When written they are:

m'n, je and z'n/d'r/(z'n)

Dutch does not have a possessive case as English does. In English one could say this house of mine, where mine (and yours, hers, his, ours, yours, theirs) is possessive case. Dutch uses objective case for this: dit huis van mij as if 'van' (of) is a preposition.

However, for a sentence like is this yours or his? Dutch would use substantivated pronouns with an ending -e

Is dit het jouwe of het zijne?

See Dutch/Appendix 3 for a table of the possessive pronouns.


In English, this is used as demonstrative pronoun to indicate something in proximity. That indicates greater distance. In Dutch a similar distinction exists, but gender plays a role:

de trein → deze trein - this train
het huis → dit huis - this house

So, one replaces 'de' by deze and 'het' by dit.

At a greater distance:

de trein → die trein
het huis → dat huis

Notice that often when English has th, Dutch will have d:

the - de
that - dat
think - denk

A third, even more distant pronoun exists (gene, gindse), but it is about as common as its English equivalent yon, yonder.

Again, the two languages betray their kinship. In some words, a g in Dutch corresponds to a y in English.. Compare:

gisteren - yesterday
de gist - the yeast
geel - yellow

Using demonstrative pronouns instead of personal pronounsEdit


Die heb ik echt nodig, hoor!

As we have seen Dutch is on its way to a two-gender system. For inanimate nouns, this makes demonstrative pronouns a more attractive choice to refer things by than personal pronouns. Compare:

close far def. indef.
gender personal demonstrative article
neuter het dit dat het een
masculine hij deze die de
feminine zij
(plural) zij --

As you see demonstratives do not distinguish whether a word is feminine or masculine and follow the same common-neuter pattern as the articles. Compare:

Ik zie Jan. Hij is sterk - I see John. He is strong.
Ik zie zijn auto. Die is duur. - I see his car. It is expensive.

Note: because de auto is not neuter, it is not correct to say: Het is duur. But saying hij is duur or zij is duur makes the word specifically masculine or feminine. Using die avoids the issue, because die follows the common gender pattern of the definite article.

Increasingly, personal pronouns are reserved for reference to persons (natural gender as in English). To refer to things people resort to substituting the demonstratives.

Reflexive and Reciprocal pronounsEdit

In English reflexive pronouns always carry the ending -self -selves: myself, themselves etc. In Dutch that is not always so. In fact, for a verb that is always reflexive, like zich vergissen (to be mistaken) the ending cannot be used:

Ik vergis me
Jij vergist je, u vergist u/zich
Hij/zij vergist zich
Wij vergissen ons
Jullie vergissen je
Zij vergissen zich

In other words the reflexive pronoun is identical to the clitic object form of the personal pronoun, except in the third person where it is zich. The pronoun u was originally a third person (It stems from U.E. uwe edele, something like: your nobility, your honor) which explains the zich for this pronoun.

Vergissen can only be used with zich, but some verbs can be used with or without a reflexive pronoun. In that case -zelf may be added:

Ik was me/mij/mezelf/mijzelf. - I wash myself.

This topic is revisited in Lesson 16

The most important reciprocal pronoun is elkaar - each other

Zij ontmoeten elkaar - They met each other.

Grammatica 4-3 Plural of nounsEdit

We already have seen some things about the plural above:

  1. the plural definite article is always de (for all genders),
  2. there is no indefinite article, but the negative geen can be used.
  3. the demonstrative pronouns are deze and die
  4. the personal pronoun is zij or its weak form ze.

Forming the plural of the noun itself is a bit more complicated. In English it is basically always done with -s, but in Dutch that is different

Recall: ...tafels en stoelen...

With few exceptions like ox - oxen pretty much all words simply get an -s in English. Dutch however has two main ways to form a plural: by adding -s and by adding -en. The latter is pronounced /-ən/, /-ə/ or even as a syllabic /-n/ depending on the region.

Which plural applies is best learned case by case as gender is, although we can attempt a general rule:

The ones in -a, -o, -i and -y get an apostrophe before the -s

baby - baby's

Unfortunately there are lots of exceptions. Many recent (latinate) loans from English or French and all diminutives get a -s.

de tafel - de tafels
de familie - de families
het meisje - de meisjes

Words in -te and -laar usually get -s:

de hoogte - de hoogtes
de kandelaar - de kandelaars

Amongst the many words that get -en are the ones in -ing:

de helling - de hellingen

Vowel changesEdit

Most monosyllabic words have -en in the plural:

de stoel - de stoelen
het raam - de ramen

In the latter case, notice that one of the a's is dropped in the spelling of the plural. This difficulty is related to the fact that most Dutch vowels occur in two varieties, a closed one and an open one. Dutch spelling has a rather ingenious and systematic way of denoting which one is intended. It involves the doubling of either vowels or consonants. Compare:

het bot /bɔt/ (the bone) has an open vowel /ɔ/ like British pot (or American paw)
de boot /bot/ (the boat) sounds much like British boat.

In this case the vowels remain the same in the plural, but notice the doubling:

het bot - de botten ['bɔtə(n)] (bot-ten)
de boot - de boten ['botə(n)] (bo-ten)

It is customary to call the first sound [ɔ] a 'short o' and the second [o] a 'long o', but this terminology can be rather confusing. There are languages like Czech or Gàidhlig where vowels are indeed distinguished purely on their length. In Dutch, however, the difference in length (quantity) is actually pretty negligible, but the difference in vowel sound (quality) is not. This presents a problem for speakers of the many languages with a five-vowel system, like Italian, Russian, Arabic or isiXhosa whose ears are not accustomed to this kind of difference. Anglophones usually do quite well.

The following five vowels possess open ('long') and covered ('short') varieties:

letter open covered

The Dutch spelling ruleEdit

For non-native speakers a complication arises in those cases where the actual vowel changes ('lengthens') in the plural, compare:

dat pad (/pɑt/) - die paden (/'padən/ - vowel changes) (that path - those paths)
die pad (/pɑt/) - die padden (/'pɑdən/ - no vowel change) (that toad - those toads)

The vowel /ɑ/ in pad and padden is approximately as in father. Paden has a vowel /a/ like in broad American 'Oh, my God' (In Dutch the spelling would be: Gaad). Also, notice the gender difference of the two words.

Vowel change is systematic in the plural of the past of certain strong verbs (class 4 and 5; see 6).

ik zat (/zɑt/) - wij zaten (/zatən/) (I sat - we sat)

A few words show vowel changes other than between the open and closed variety of the same vowel:

de stad - de steden (city).
het schip - de schepen (ship)

Words ending in -heid get -heden:

beleefdheid - beleefdheden

There are about a dozen plurals in Dutch that end in -eren:

het kind - de kinderen (child - children)
het lam - de lammeren (lamb)

The ending -eren is essentially a double plural. It derives from a plural in -er and in some compounds that is still visible:

de kinderkamer - the children's room
de lammergier - a species of vulture

Some words in -ie have an -en plural that requires a diaeresis (trema in Dutch). The spelling depends on where the stress falls:

de kolónie - de kolóniën
de dynastíé - de dynastíéën

Notice that in Dutch orthography the stress of a word cán be indicated with an acute accent, but this is only permitted if otherwise ambiguity might arise.

A trema is also used after -ee:

de zee - de zeeën
de diatomee - de diatomeeën

Occasionally a Latin or Greek plural is preserved in Dutch:

het museum - de musea
de chemicus - de chemici
YOUR TURN - UW BEURT!! • Lesson 4 • Plurals

Try to form the plural of the following word. Indicate if there is any vowel change involved:

  1. het hoofd -the head
  2. het dak - the roof
  3. de bak - the container
  4. de zak - the bag
  5. de zaak - the business
  6. het zaakje - the affair
  7. de opera - the opera
  8. het rad - the wheel
  9. het bad - the bath
  10. de lepel - the spoon
  11. de camera - the camera
  12. de robot - the robot
  13. het baken - the beacon
  14. het schip - the ship
  15. het gebod - the commandment
  16. de stelling - the thesis, the (military) post
  17. het wapen - the weapon
  18. de vleugel - the wing
  19. de musicus - the musician
SOLUTION • Dutch/Lesson 4 • Plurals
  1. het hoofd - hoofden
  2. het dak - daken (lengthening)
  3. de bak - bakken
  4. de zak - zakken
  5. de zaak - zaken
  6. het zaakje - zaakjes
  7. de opera - opera's
  8. het rad - raderen (-eren plural + lengthening)
  9. het bad - baden (lengthening)
  10. de lepel - lepels
  11. de camera - camera's
  12. de robot - robots (<English)
  13. het baken - bakens
  14. het schip - schepen (vowel change)
  15. het gebod - geboden (lengthening)
  16. de stelling - stellingen
  17. het wapen - wapens, (also: wapenen)
  18. de vleugel - vleugels (poetic: vleugelen)
  19. de musicus - musici (<Lat.)

Woordenlijst 4Edit

Dutch term Audio file English translation
de tafel About this sound tafel table
de stoel About this sound stoel chair
het geld About this sound geld money
de student About this sound student student (university)
de universiteit About this sound universiteit university
het medicijn About this sound medicijn the medication, the drug
kan er niks aan doen cannot help it
nodig About this sound nodig necessary
Ik heb nodig I need
bezoeken About this sound bezoeken attend (as a student)
verkopen About this sound verkopen sell
wat About this sound wat some
niks About this sound niks nothing
nog About this sound nog still
duur About this sound duur expensive
weer About this sound weer again
vooruit About this sound vooruit ahead, 'let's go'
te weinig About this sound weinig too little

Pronunciation Guide>>